Most writers are used to being a recluse and accepting the stack of rejection letters as part of the territory. With the advent of digital media, I decided it was time to change this state of affairs, take charge of my own work and get it out to an audience somewhere out in the ether of the worldwide web.
Up to this point I had concentrated on scriptwriting for film & TV, so how could I get my work out there without needing to remortgage the house? With a little help from my amateur actor friends I started to write & record my dramas as radio plays and very quickly I had to make the transition from being solely a writer to actor, director and producer – not to mention catering manager!
But I obviously needed a platform from which I could reach my audience and after some research into online entertainment, where I found everything was actively aimed at 16 to 24 year olds, I decided that there was a need for digital media for people with more mature tastes. So I decided to set up spoken word entertainment website listenupnorth.com as a showcase for my own & also other writer’s recorded work in the form of drama, poetry, short stories, book extracts and interviews available to listen online or download.
Fast approaching 50, recovering from a major hysterectomy and having recently experienced a bout of crippling depression and counselling for low self-esteem, I found that I not only had to learn new skills but also find new confidence. I was accepted onto a creative entrepreneur scheme at Durham Business School to lay the foundation in running a business and that was followed by a place on the Digital City Fellowship at the prestigious Institute of Digital Innovation, Teesside University. There, as someone who at that time could barely turn on a computer without the help of her teenagers, I took my place among the ‘geeks’ mostly young guys fresh from university looking to establish themselves in the computer games business.
The fact that I was chosen for these ventures and the digital & business people ‘in the know’ who interviewed me thought my project ‘had legs’ gave me confidence even when there was little support, moral or financial, from various arts bodies who quite frankly were somewhat sniffy about my idea. However, rather than allowing that to put me off, I just slapped on my HRT patch and became more bloody minded than ever to get listenupnorth.com up, running & successful.
My criteria were that any recorded work on listenupnorth.com had to be good both in terms of content and sound quality. The website also had to be clearly laid out and easy to navigate with accessing sound files a straight forward operation for those, like me, who are not of the generation where digital technology was on the school curriculum.
I decided against user-generated content as I wanted to control what went onto my site because listenupnorth.com is as much about providing the audience with a good listen as it is a platform for writers. I look to record content that is interesting & well written but not elitist. It is my intention to appeal not only to those who already enjoy the spoken word form but also those who may not necessarily bother to listen to a drama, story or a poem. I hope they’ll enjoy a new experience whether they’re taking time out or on the go commuting to work.
After being let down by several recording technicians, again it was time to learn new skills: I enrolled on a course at a local college and can now at least carry out a single voice recording to professional quality. This means that in practical terms I tend to record writers in my own locality. I like to think of it as taking North East of England writing talent out to a global audience.
With maturity comes patience
With maturity comes the patience to realise that not everything worthwhile is achieved at breakneck speed. listenupnorth.com is a work in progress, and after 18 months spent building up 200 pieces of spoken word content by over 60 writers, I am now looking to the next phase: monetising the site by selling some downloads but still retaining lots of free content to attract listeners.
And I take it all in my stride. Had I undertaken this venture earlier in my life, I think I would have allowed myself to be totally fazed and defeated before I even began. But I turned 50 last year with a ‘can do’ resolve. I am negotiating my way round things today that I could never have conceived of doing in my 30s including making a short film of one of my dramas (but more about that one in a future blogpost!) For me the right time is now.
listenupnorth.com is a spoken word entertainment website set up & run by Rachel Cochrane for those with mature listening tastes.
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